President Zuma addressing youth during June 16 event. 16 June 2016, By DoC

Today South Africa marked 41 years since the heroic uprising by the youth in 16 June 1976. This year’s National Youth Day was celebrated under the theme: “The Year of Oliver Reginald Tambo: Advancing Youth Economic Empowerment.”

President Zuma acknowledged that the youth of 1976 fought for political freedom which dawned in 1994 after a long protracted struggle. He also indicated that there are still challenges for the youth today.

He indicated that he is aware that the youth of 2017 are fighting for freedom from poverty, inequality and unemployment.

He pointed out that  the Government in 1976 responded with guns to the call of young people for freedom and a better life.

Today, he indicated that the democratic government  had responded with very specific programmes to assist the youth. He outlined a number of these programmes that are currently in place and those that are planned by government. They include the following programmes in various sectors of the economy:


Through the Education Infrastructure Grant and the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative, more new schools have been built, refurbishments made and new school furniture delivered.

For the current financial year, government has allocated 12 billion rand in total to improve  school infrastructure needs.

Many learners come from poor homes where they go to school without having had something to eat. It is for this reason that the government has  started the National School Nutrition Programme, which benefits nine million learners from twenty one thousand schools per day to improve their performance in class. For the current financial year, government will spend some 6.8 billion rand on the nutrition scheme. 

As part of building a new nation, Zuma indicated that the government would like to ensure that young people are conversant and proficient in African languages, which define their identity as South Africans and Africans.

In this regard, government is introducing the incremental use of African languages in schools on a compulsory basis.

Beyond matric, Government wants our youth to access higher education, regardless of the economic status of their families.

Since its inception, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme has disbursed more than seventy two billion rand in loans and bursaries to students from poor households.

More than two million students currently continue to receive NSFAS funding at  tertiary institutions including those at the Technical, Vocational Education and Training colleges.

Zuma expressed that this contribution by government is an important foothold onto which a more expanded and inclusive funding model can be found.

On the efforts related to finding a model towards improved funding for education Zuma indicated that the government is  awaiting  findings of the Heher Commission of Inquiry.

President Zuma also highlighted other goverment programmes aimed at enabling young people to access jobs. He mentioned that since the launch of the Expanded Public Works Programme EPWP Phase 3 in April 2014, over 1.2 million work opportunities have been taken up by the youth out of the 2.6 million work opportunities created by the programme.

In the current 2017/18 financial year, the Expanded Public Works Programme  aims to create more than seven hundred thousand work opportunities for youth  through the four sectors of the programme namely infrastructure, social sector, non-state, environmental and culture sectors.

He also  mentioned a few examples of interventions by goverment departments.  

Government departments supporting youth

Department of Environmental Affairs will prioritise the placement of young women in the environmental sector and also invest one point five billion rand to  reach thirty five thousand young people in various projects.  

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries will support youth owned enterprises through the Comprehensive Agriculture Support Programme and the Ilima Letsema programmes.

The Department of Communications in collaboration with the Department of Public Works will train more than two thousand youth to help install Set Top Boxes to enable Digital Migration.

The Department of Trade and Industry through the Monyetla Work Readiness programme aims to provide training to six thousand young people to position South Africa as a preferred off-shore location for call centres or Business Process operations. 

Through the Department of Human Settlements, over five hundred host employers in the Real Estate Sector will absorb over eight thousand unemployed youth and graduates to take up opportunities in real estate.  

The Department of Energy will train young people as installers for the Solar Water Heater programme. 

The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform will continue implementing the National Rural Youth Service Corp and Youth Brigade programme focusing on agriculture, construction and engineering sectors through the training of 400 youth.

The Department of Water and Sanitation continues to train young people as plumbers and artisans to participate in the programme of preventing water leaks in municipalities.

National Youth Development Agency

As part of driving economic emancipation, the National Youth Development Agency has been directed to focus on promoting youth entrepreneurship and the improved coordination of the National Youth Service across all sectors of government.

In the current financial year, the Agency will invest seventy two million rand in the economic participation programmes.

President Zuma concluded by encouraging young people to seize the opportunities provided by government to help them establish their own businesses.